News from Shape Up America!
December 2005
Shape Up America! Newsletter


Home for the Holidays
Does heading home for the holidays push all of your stress buttons and fill you with fear and apprehension? If so, you are not alone. For some people, visions of large quantities of tempting food, holiday parties or excessive drinking cause alarm; for others, family interactions and the re-emergence of destructive family dynamics are worrisome. Often underlying it all is the fear of losing a daily routine.

Loss of Routine Does NOT Mean Loss of Control

For many people, a daily routine is a ritual that keeps us calm and centered and helps us stay in control. The concern is that losing your routine may mean losing control over your eating habits, eliciting the fear of overeating. It is important to think about the benefits of being flexible at holiday time and how you might constructively deviate from your routine without losing control.

A little forward planning may help allay your concerns and help you navigate the holiday challenges. For example, do you usually take an early morning walk each day, but feel you can’t do this while home for the holidays? Perhaps you can find a family member who shares your enjoyment of a walk. Plan to walk together at an hour that suits you both, even if it isn’t the hour you would normally choose.

And what about all the food? Do your hosts want to feed you a big breakfast each day when you prefer to eat something considerably more modest? Do they believe in three square meals a day while you do just fine on only two? Figure out what your specific concern is and how you might moderate your intake in the face of the tempting bounty of the holidays. Perhaps you can offer to prepare a few meals yourself. If you feel someone is pushing food on you, have a private conversation with that person and calmly set some limits.

State your case clearly and calmly

The key is to negotiate a working arrangement that works for you and your family. Learning how to state what you want calmly but firmly and learning how to negotiate a compromise that works for everyone is a skill. The only way to learn it is to give it a try. Be prepared to listen carefully to what others have to say. You may learn something new or gain valuable insight as you discuss your concerns.

Pitching in strengthens your position

If you pitch in and help prepare the meal, it can be easier to have it your way. You may want to use recipes that are lower in fat or menus that incorporate more vegetables or whole grains. You don’t necessarily have to explain yourself but in some families, it may be helpful to explain what you’re doing and why. Preparing a meal can be an expression of love. Food that is thoughtfully and healthfully prepared is a holiday gift for everyone.

Put the Brakes on Alcohol

When it comes to drinking, there are many options. You can make a nonalcoholic drink that looks like the real thing. For example, a tomato juice with a lemon resembles a Bloody Mary. A sparkling water with lime resembles a gin and tonic. If your choice is wine, sip it slowly to stretch it out as long as possible. Or limit alcohol by alternating a glass of wine with a glass of seltzer, water or diet soda.

The True Meaning of the Holidays

In the end, it is worth remembering what the holidays are really about—an opportunity to express love, care and affection for one another. Traditionally, the holiday meal is one way of expressing that meaning. The holiday is associated with specific foods, some of which may set you up for a binge. It may help you stay calm and in control if you take your mind off the food and focus instead on the real meaning of the holidays. That meaning may relate to your religion or beliefs, or it may be the sharing of your family ties, your shared history and experiences, or the sharing of love.

If this sharing causes discomfort or stress, try to identify your own personal challenges and to mentally prepare yourself to be flexible. The goal is to handle the holidays as graciously as possible. And don’t forget your sense of humor!

If all else fails, you can rent a fun video. Try “Home for the Holidays” starring Holly Hunter.

If Food Binges Threaten, Don’t Fly Solo
If you have visited the Support Center on the Shape Up America! website, and clicked on “Information Please!” you may have noticed the information and quiz on Binge Eating Disorder.

People with Binge Eating Disorder:

  • have frequent episodes of eating more food within a two-hour period than most other people would eat during a similar time under similar circumstances
  • feel a lack of control over their eating during these episodes
  • experience at least three of the following while binge eating. They:
    • eat much more rapidly than normal
    • eat until they feel uncomfortably full
    • eat large amounts of food when they are not physically hungry
    • eat alone because they are embarrassed by how much food they have eaten
    • feel disgusted, depressed, or very guilty after overeating
  • on average, binge eat at least two days a week for six months.

When people write us about their struggles with bingeing, they sometimes tell us that since they don't have the financial means to seek help, they try to stop on their own. We encourage you NOT to go it alone and to GET HELP instead. In fact, the longer you wait to seek help, the harder it is to stop. And the longer your binge problem persists, the more damage will be done. If you feel you have a problem, quick action is urgently needed.

If you are enrolled in a school, first check to see if your school has a professional counselor trained in eating disorders who can help you out. Or check the yellow pages of your phone book for a clinic that specializes in binge eating disorders. If you have to pay out of your own pocket, many psychiatrists and psychologists are willing to charge on a sliding scale. That means they charge people with less money lower rates, and some provide counseling to needy people for free. It never hurts to inquire and you may get what you need at a price you can afford.

Soda in Schools: So What’s the Big Deal?
Soda is in the news a lot lately. The American Beverage Association (ABA), which represents companies that manufacture and distribute beverages like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, recently released a report stating that the amount of soft drinks sold in our nation’s schools dropped by 24% between 2002 and 2004. But sales of sports drinks rose by 70%.

If you’re wondering whether soda causes childhood obesity—well, if only it were that simple. Childhood obesity is a complex problem caused by many factors. We believe that taking sugared beverages out of schools is a good idea, but we do not expect that making that one change can reverse the rising rates of childhood obesity. To prevent childhood obesity, parents, teachers, caregivers, children and teens need to make many changes in their eating, drinking, exercise and lifestyle habits.

Why all the brouhaha over soda? The reason is that when parents send their children to school, they want to know their children are safe and that schools have the best interests of their children in mind. Children and teens do not understand all of the nutritional implications of their food and beverage choices. Given the escalating rates of childhood obesity, providing children with beverages that offer calories and little or no nutritional benefits is not helpful.

This past summer, the ABA issued a set of voluntary guidelines for selling beverages in school vending machines. The ABA guidelines state that in elementary schools, only bottled water and 100 percent juice should be sold. Our comment is that the focus should be on providing primarily water and milk to this age group.

For middle school students, the ABA guidelines are more complex. Bottled water, 100 percent juice, sports drinks, no-calorie soft drinks and low-calorie juice drinks can be offered when school is in session. Full-calorie soft drinks and full-calorie juice drinks (with 5 percent or less juice) are available after school only.

We feel that bottled water is the best of these choices, although water fountains are free and should be available to all children at all times. We would like to see low fat or fat free milk as an option, as well. While 100 percent juice is nutritionally better than soft drinks, it should be used in moderation because it contains calories. Sports drinks are not needed when water will do, plus many contain sodium and unnecessary calories. Some no-calorie soft drinks contain caffeine and should not be offered to children. Although low-calorie soft drinks contain fewer calories than full-calorie versions, the nutritional value in both types of products, as well as in full-calorie juice drinks, is minimal.

At the high school level, the ABA guidelines call for providing a variety of beverage choices, such as bottled water, 100 percent juice, sports drinks and juice drinks, with no more than 50 percent of the vending selections as soft drinks. We agree that high school students should have a wider variety of choices than younger children. But we urge parents to insure that:

  1. the high school in their community makes water fountains available at all times.
  2. the vending machines emphasize bottled water, low fat or fat free milk and 100 percent juice, as well as fruits (e.g., oranges and apples) and vegetables (e.g., bags of carrots).
  3. the school curriculum allows for educating high school students about how to use the food label so they can better understand the role of calories in weight management, and how to evaluate the calorie content of a product relative to the nutrient delivery of that product.

Winter Trails Day—January 7, 2006
Winter Trails Day is a special program that gives children and adults the chance to try snowshoeing and cross-country skiing FREE OF CHARGE at nearly 100 parks and recreation centers across North America. Geared toward families, hikers, school groups and youth organizations that are new to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, Winter Trails events provide the opportunity to discover the fitness benefits and fun in these easy-to-learn winter sports. Equipment will be provided. Many venues will also offer educational programs and guided tours.

Winter Trails is presented by SnowSports Industries America (SIA), American Hiking Society (AHS), and Cross Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA). For more information, go to

Recipe of the Month
This recipe features broccoli, endive and red peppers, a colorful mix for the holiday season.
Makes 6 servings


  • 1 1-pound package frozen broccoli spears (2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup low-fat French or Italian salad dressing, divided
  • 1 pound Belgian endive (6 cups)
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut in strips, or 2 cups tiny tomatoes (2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts


  1. Blanch broccoli by placing it into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Then pour into a colander and run under cold water to stop cooking. Drain thoroughly in the colander.
  2. Toss broccoli with 1/4 cup of the salad dressing.
  3. Cut the cone-shaped core out of the bottom of each endive. The leaves should separate. Toss gently with another 1/4 cup of the dressing.
  4. To compose the salad on a platter or on individual plates, lay the endive leaves around the sides. Set the pepper strips on the leaves. Place the marinated broccoli in the middle, drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup dressing over all. Top with pine nuts.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 96 calories, 3 grams total fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 272 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber

Source: National Cancer Institute’s 5 A Day Recipe,

phone: 202-974-5051

The Shape Up America! newsletter

Editor: Adrienne Forman, MS, RD

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